This week's news in brief
Expert Patient boost
The Government is to treble spending on the Expert Patient Programme from £6m to £18m. It also plans to turn the programme into a not-for-profit company. Pilots have shown a 16 per cent cut in hospital visits through increased self-care, but a national evaluation found the scheme was failing to reach people most in need.
Teen abortion ruling
Doctors' groups have expressed relief after a High Court judge rejected attempts to make it obligatory to inform parents if a girl under 16 had sought an abortion. A mother had argued that parents had a right to know. But the court disagreed and found a previous ruling allowing doctors to give confidential advice to under-16s was lawful.
NHS walk-in centres late
Health secretary Patricia Hewitt last week officially opened the first two NHS walk-in centres for commuters nine months late. The centres near London Liverpool Street and Manchester Piccadilly stations are the first of seven privately-run sites to open this year.
MDU discount for survey
The Medical Defence Union is offering a discount on an online version of the GPAQ patient survey It is charging a flat fee of £50 per practice to use the survey for the QOF, rather than the standard of £50 per partner or £350 total.
Home oxygen U-turn
The NHS has had to revise guidelines on home oxygen services because of GPs' lack of oximetry facilities. Initial referral guidelines stated: 'Oximetry is an essential adjunct in determining whether to make a referral.' 'Essential' has been changed to 'desirable'.
Lift for GP premises
New primary care centres funded by NHS Lift will open at a rate of more than one a week over the next year, the Government has said. Dr Nigel Watson, a member of the GPC's practice finance committee, said premises investment was welcome but questioned whether Lift 'delivered what GPs want'.
OTC antiviral mooted
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is considering making a topical antiviral available over the counter. Patients would be advised to use penciclovir cream for cold sores for a maximum of four days before seeing a doctor under the proposals out for public consultation until 28 February.
Parkinson's fast tracked
Suspected Parkinson's Disease should be referred quickly to specialists for diagnosis without attempting treatment, draft NICE guidance recommends. All those referred by GPs should be seen within six weeks and palliative care requirements considered.
Eczema care warning
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved new warnings on two eczema treatments.